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September 26, 2012 By Steven E. Greer, MD
In the September 23rd “What we want from the new BPCA“, we listed a performing arts center as a new project for the BPCA that would be in demand. There is currently no such venue Downtown, and residents are forced to trek up to Midtown or the Upper West side for quality concerts, incurring time, hassle, and $40 taxi fares.
On Monday the 24th, BP.TV toured Battery Park City with a man who makes a living at setting up performing arts centers: Kevin Cunningham of the nearby 3LD studios. 3LD not only stages a high-tech theater across the West Side Highway from West Thames Street, but they also go on the road to assist venues such as Lincoln Center. Mr. Cunningham is plugged in with the officials in the state legislature who have funded performing arts centers. State Senator Daniel Squadron has been a notable champion for cultural centers, said Mr. Cunningham.
Prior to our Monday tour, BP.TV spoke with the Goldman Sachs executives who manage their real estate holdings, and they did not seem interested in using the large space next to Blue Smoke for a Joe’s Pub-like center. Security is a top priority in the perimeter of the Conrad Hotel and Goldman Sachs headquarters. Therefore, we toured the World Financial Center renovations underway, managed by Brookfield Properties, a Canadian company. Brookfield has not yet sign up new tenants for most of the area being renovated, and is even considering converting the tower that houses American Express into a condo residential building.
Mr. Cunningham explained that a performing arts center, such as Joe’s Pub, needs to be able to house approximately 500 seats, have 18-feet ceilings, and have special electrical wiring. The WFC #2 building, where the former Southwest restaurant used to be located, could accommodate those specifications, and the construction is still in early stages.
Mr. Cunningham explained that such a center would require millions in funding to get the initial stages going. The BPCA was created, in part, to promote cultural arts, and currently funds the River to River concerts, along with American Express, LMCC, and the Downtown Alliance. The BPCA has a budget surplus and currently spends tens of millions on controversial projects, such as Pier A.
Since the model of Joe’s Pub, which is the venue for high quality artists that command ticket prices of $20 (as opposed to the free entertainment in the Winter Garden), was discussed during our tour with Mr. Cunningham, the idea of making an actual annex of Joe’s Pub arose. Mr. Cunningham currently works with the Public Theater, which operates Joe’s Pub.
The nearby “Ground Zero” proposed billion-dollar performing arts center is going nowhere. The money promised by the LMDC and other sources is not being delivered in the wake of the completely stalled 9/11 Memorial. If construction on that performing arts center began now, it would be at least five years away before completion. All of those plans fall under the perview of the Port Authority, not the Battery Park City Authority run by newly appointed Chairman Dennis Mehiel, and a yet-to-be-named new President/CEO.
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